Advancing your Career – Advice from Drury University Animation Professor Steven Carpenter

Imagine you’ve finally pushed through the gauntlet of college education. Passing with flying colors, making a solid portfolio and gaining plenty of much-needed experience from final projects, internships, and late nights working. Congratulations! You’ve passed the student barrier and are ready to start your career!

So what now?

We at InBetween417 interviewed Steven Carpenter, a Drury University professor in the Animation Department, for some advice on the topic. Carpenter is a computer artist with over 20 years of production experience, working on everything from commercials for M&Ms to visual effects for episodic programs such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The First Step

The first major hurdle Carpenter noted in our interview primarily focused on location. “In order to get going in this industry, people have to know you and trust you. For that to happen, you must be in the same room.” Among the best people to network with are primarily going to be other students in your class, though any connection is going to be crucial.

As for places to migrate to for work, Carpenter noted that the most obvious places to get started would be Los Angeles, California; Orlando, Florida; New York, or Vancouver. “Certain cities have lots of studios, and that’s where you really need to be to get your career going.” Carpenter also notes Austin, Texas and Chicago, Illinois are getting to that point as well.

Carpenter finished this particular dialogue by suggesting that while it is important to get that start professionally, the Internet has changed and continues to change this fact to a mild degree. “Once you’re established and people know they can trust you, you can be wherever you want.”

Getting Yourself Out There

So, you’ve formed friendships with your peers to last a lifetime and have made the jump to the nearest major hub to gain some vital experience. While all of these are very good starting points, then comes the time to show off your work.

Carpenter immediately recommended a tried-and-true method for getting one’s work out to where people can see it: Film Festivals and web pages.

“Get your work out there, get eyeballs on your work… Really market yourself, get some web presence out there.”

Of course, one has to be organized and responsive in this manner. Carpenter made a note of a student who has been sending their demo reels to various alumni and receiving feedback via LinkedIn.

We at InBetween417 also recommend tailoring demo reels to a specific job within the pipeline. “Most people in this industry are very willing to help you if you give them a very set thing to help with, and don’t be too open-ended about it – they’re busy – they’ve got productions going on.”

Carpenter also recommends going online with your talents and establishing yourself around a community you’re passionate about. “Figure out what it is you want to do, and find the online community that best matches that. There are plenty of websites out there that cater just to modeling- just to animating. Get involved with those sites, you never know what connection is going to lead you to that first job.”

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